Dear .... UUMA Colleagues,
Thank you for your letter expressing concern about the decision by the UUA Board to set aside $100,000 for governance consulting. In a period of budget constraints which forced the UUA to lay off staff, the decision to use $100,000 from reserves to pay for consulting must appear puzzling at best and bizarre at worst. Here at the UUA the issue of layoffs is real and personal. These are colleagues and friends, not abstract positions and budget lines.
Let me give some background. The proposal to add $100,000 to the budget was the result of the board’s discussion in executive session near the end of a four day meeting. I was not part of that discussion, nor was any member of the administration. The first I or any member of the UUA senior staff heard of this was Sunday afternoon. Prior to the executive session several members of the Board stated that they did not want to approve the budget. That would have put the budget in limbo. I have heard nothing about what was discussed in executive session. I find it troubling that budget decisions were made in a session that was not public. Earlier during the meeting I expressed my disagreement with using executive sessions in this way. In the end, it is the board’s decision and I raised no further objections when they voted to go into executive session.
We need to understand the context and the full proposal. The proposal placed before me was not just to put $100,000 in the budget for governance consulting, but also to approve the budget the administration had submitted and to commit to enter into a dialog with the new board and moderator about the monitoring process. In a letter to the board before the January meeting I had expressed the senior staff’s view that the monitoring process we are using is not working. As further background, the administration has requested a collaborative process for arriving at “interpretations” of ends and of the appropriate metrics for monitoring reports for three years.
In short, the option presented at the Sunday afternoon meeting was to approve the budget as presented and to agree to a process of dialog with the new board. I saw, and continue to see, the $100,000 as a fund to draw upon if the new board and moderator, in dialog with me and our senior leadership, believe that level of consulting is necessary.
This is clearly a matter for the new moderator and the new board to decide in discussion with the administration. I personally hope we can work out a better relationship while using little, if any, of that money.
A couple of other points need to be mentioned. Members of the board have said that the board did not receive a strategic plan with the budget. This is simply not the case. I suggest that people look at what we actually submitted (http://www.uua.org/documents/moralespeter/130402_strategic_vision.pdf). You may or may not agree with what we said or how it is expressed, but it is the strategic vision that guided every budget decision. I also urge you to look at our recent monitoring reports (http://www.uua.org/uuagovernance/manual/157925.shtml).
This administration is committed to accountability and transparency. We are not opposed to metrics. More than that, we are committed to excellence. (There is great irony and some humor here, since I have something of a reputation for being obsessed with data. I have taught research design and evaluation at the graduate level. My love of charts makes me the object of good natured teasing.) The real monitoring issues are about which measures are valid and reliable. We have a long way to go. Reasonable people will disagree and there is much uncertainty. Can any of you serving in a congregation make a causal link between money spent on religious education training and membership growth or RE attendance?
I work with highly capable colleagues who are deeply committed to our faith. Your Association, our Association, is worthy of our generous support. Don’t let disagreements about the mechanics of governance distract us from the excellent work we are doing.
With all this said, I am hopeful and even optimistic. We have an opportunity to take a fresh look at how we govern our faith. The key, as always, is a genuine willingness to work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Unitarian Universalist Association